By Michael Catarineau
This article originally appeared in the summer 2018 Ranch House Journal.
Carlos X. Guerra is a humble man of faith with a rich south Texas history.
“I’m a 65-year-old longtime rancher dedicated to my faith, family, community and profession,” Guerra said. “I’m blessed that I have the opportunity to do what I’ve always dreamed of doing in this great country.”
Ranching runs deep in Guerra’s blood.
“Our family has been involved in ranching for several generations,” he said. “I was born into it.”
When Guerra was 11-years-old, his father bought him his first 4-H project, a Red Angus bull calf he named Pancho.
He has been raising registered cattle ever since.
Guerra and his wife, Sister, along with their four children, bought out the Guerra Bros. registered cattle, in 1989 and began La Muñeca Cattle Company.
However, the story of La Muñeca began more than a 130 years prior, right at the turn of the 19th century.
Antonia Guerra and her husband, Manuel, had three children — Crisanta Guerra de Barrera, Dario and Arcadio Guerra — in Mier, Tamaulipas, México.
In 1865, Manuel suffered a heart attack and died.
Antonia, a strong woman, made her living to provide for her family in Mier with a cigarette business and as a midwife.
She also had cattle in both México and Texas.
Antonia, in search of a better life for her and her children, moved her family to the Charco Redondo Ranch in Texas, where she owned some land.
After about 15 years at Charco Redondo, Antonia and her three children moved southwest, bought land and began La Reforma Ranch.
“Her youngest son, Arcadio, which was my grandfather, was very active as a merchant,” Guerra said. “[He] started … community stores in several ranching and farming areas and later established one of the first cotton gins and grain elevators in this area.”
Arcadio allowed sharecroppers on his land and continued to expand.
Guerra’s father, Rafael and Tio Arcadio, doing business as Guerra Bros., continued in his grandfather’s footsteps, and added land in the 1940s.
The Guerras bought a ranch in 1975 that they named La Muñeca which is where Carlos, Sister and their family now live.
In Spanish, la muñeca means, “the doll.” Antonia registered this brand in both México and Texas in the 1870s.
When Carlos, Sister and their children, Laura, Carlos Jr., Victor and Cristina, bought out the Guerra Bros. cattle, they acquired the brand and have used it since.
Their brand, which is a Y on top of a triangle, resembles a doll — the Y being the arms and waist, and the triangle being the skirt.
Today, La Muñeca raises Simbrah, an elite herd of polled Brahman and a breed of their own creation: Simbravieh.The Guerras have also bred Red Angus, Red Brangus, Red Brahman, Indu Brazil, Gyr, Black and White Zebus, Gelbray and Simmentals.
La Muñeca has marketed itself with the help of Ranch House Designs, who has managed their website since 1999. In fact, LaMuneca was one of the first website clients of RHD.
Today, the 4,000-acre ranch — 18 miles north of Edinburg off Highway 281 — is strictly used for registered cattle.
The hot, semi-arid climate of the Rio Grande Valley did not allow for early 20th century farmers to grow large quantities of crops, and cattle fueled the economy.
However, up until about 30 years ago, the Guerras grew cotton and milo.
Native wildlife to the area include white-tailed deer, javelina, turkey and quail.
Non-native wildlife roaming the valley include nilgai antelope, which were brought from India in the mid 1920s.
The main problems La Muñeca have faced have been weather-related.
The Rio Grande Valley is already a dry place, and drought makes it drier.
“You just have to learn to live with it,” Guerra said.
A future problem La Muñeca is planning on dealing with further down the road, is the rapid speed at which the RGV is developing.
“It’s becoming more urbanized,” Guerra said. “We’re seeing more and more developments come closer to us.”
Eventually, he said, it’s going to influence a lot of the ranch lands.
THE GRIT, THE HEART, THE ÁNIMO
ÁNIMO is a Spanish term, which for Guerra, means the combination of dedication, passion, commitment, spirit and heart, needed to optimize one’s potential.
ÁNIMO is something Guerra has much of, and it is evident when he speaks.
“We love to share our time and resources with others trying to make this a better place for all,” he said. “We like to surround ourselves with people that are pro growth and can think with their hearts.”
Volunteerism has always been something very important to the Guerra family.
This amalgam of traits was first fostered in Guerra in 1979 with the passing of his brother, Victor.
“My little brother, Gerry, and I donated the heifer that the three of us owned together that Victor showed,” Guerra said.
In an effort to keep Victor’s legacy alive, he and Gerry asked their father if they could donate the heifer at their very first cow auction.
Guerra’s father loved the idea and agreed to match the bid.
“That scholarship effort inspired us to develop more scholarships in more organizations that we belong to,” Guerra said.
To date, La Muñeca and the Guerra family have touched the lives of more than 1,000 students that are involved in 4-H, FFA, their community as well as local, state and national Junior Simbrah and Brahman organizations, awarding scholarships in Victor’s memory.
“I have been blessed to serve on both the Texas FFA and 4-H Foundation,” he said. “Our son, Victor, now serves on the Texas FFA Foundation. One of the things my family has always prided themselves in, is looking for better ways … to increase the awareness and effectiveness of [these] organizations.”
The Guerra family has always believed in creating pro-growth organizations like the American Junior Simbrah Roundup; MAS, which stands for Marketing American Simbrah; STAR Gala and recently, the LMC and Friends ÁNIMO Award.
“We started the ÁNIMO Award to try and recognize a special kiddo at both the National Junior Simbrah and Brahman shows,” Guerra said. “At the All-American three years ago, our first winner was a young lady by the name of Megan Lambert. She inspired all of us there to create The Brahman Foundation.”
The Brahman Foundation is a 501c3 foundation that has raised the bar for opportunities made available for junior Brahman exhibitors.
Another way La Muñeca gives back, is with the land itself and its native wildlife in the form of hunting.
“Most of our hunts are donated to various charities,” Guerra said. “We’ve used our properties, our ranch, to help raise lots of money for scholarships for 4-H and FFA students through raffles and auctioning off hunts.”
La Muñeca also does day hunts for their cattle clients and community volunteers to show their appreciation.
Guerra plans to keep cultivating the love of agriculture in his grandchildren, Gabriela, Carlos III, Mia Carmen and Cecilia, as well as the youth in his community through FFA, 4-H and other organizations.
“We’re blessed to have the opportunity to do so,” he said.
Guerra has helped students find jobs and encourages others to further their education — even if it is outside of agriculture.
Recently, Carlos and his siblings, Felo, Hector, Carmen and Gerry, divided their ranch lands.
Guerra is going to name their ranch San Antonia in honor of his great-grandmother.
La Muñeca will remain the headquarters about three miles south of San Antonia.
Guerra said the next step for La Muñeca is continued growth and more programs to help the community and continue the legacy Antonia Guerra began more than 130 years ago.
For more information, visit www.lamunecacattle.com.